Spring has sprung! And so has our sense of urgency to clean our closets, houses, garages and all of the stuff that has piled up over the winter months. What most of us don’t realize is these chores can be hard on our bodies. In fact, according to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, a national leader in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, millions of home-related injuries occur every year as we clean our way into the warmer months.
Typically, we all try to do too much too quickly. If you are anything like me, you feel the overwhelming desire to get this done in the shortest time frame possible – warp speed!
Cleaning chores involve stretching, lifting, climbing, pushing, pulling, climbing, twisting and turning – movements most of us don’t do on a regular basis. Many of these movements use muscles we wouldn’t typically use even in a daily exercise program. In addition, most of us don’t take the necessary precautions to avoid injuries. Many common injuries are the result of improper bending or lifting or not using our common sense when it comes to safety, e.g. securing and stabilizing a ladder before climbing to reach the hard to reach areas that require our spring cleaning attention.
To help us all get the job done safely and without injury, below are some helpful tips:
- Set realistic goals – Rome wasn’t built in a day and either is our thorough annual cleaning. Tackle one project at a time. Spread projects out over a few days or even several weekends. I know…this is killing you…us… A+ personality types, but this will alleviate our tendency to overdo and give our bodies some rest in between.
- Check all equipment that is needed for cleaning projects – Make sure all ladders, stools, etc. are in good solid working order before beginning a project.
- Work safely – Make sure all cleaning areas are free of clutter and well lit. Make sure to work in well-ventilated areas when using cleaning solutions and chemicals and keep them away from children and pets.
- Ask for help – We have a tendency to think that the only way anything gets done right is if we do it ourselves. Well, that may be true but, other people live in the house and they should all do their part too. Assign tasks so that everyone shares in the workload. In the end, everyone will feel good…especially about the sense of accomplishment.
- Use proper cleaning techniques – Using the correct body movements can help minimize risk of injury. Here are a few recommendations.
- Lifting and carrying – Always have someone help you with heavy boxes or when moving furniture and remember bend your knees and lift with your legs, not your back.
- Windows – Always keep your feet on the ground or on a secure ladder/step stool. Never climb on furniture or windowsills. Yes, I know, we’ve all been guilty of this. Keep level with the area that is being cleaned to avoid overstretching. Also try to keep your back straight and avoid tilting your head upward or backward, especially for long periods of time.
- Painting – Always keep paintbrushes and rollers in front of you and waist high. This will avoid stress on the spine. Looking up at high walls or ceilings for long periods of time puts extra pressure on the neck, which can cause pinching and numbness. Again, although we’d all like to have a freshly painted house before the sun goes down, we will benefit immensely, body and mind, if we practice patience – paint in short intervals and take frequent breaks.
Getting our house in order is good for the body and the soul. It’s great exercise and we feel such a sense of accomplishment when it is completed. But, let’s be sensible. We must our limits, take frequent breaks and always drink plenty of fluids.
Here’s to spring! Now let the cleaning begin!